Monday, October 1, 2012

Disney in Ghana

(Here's several weeks worth of posts all wrapped up into one...  Sorry for the longevity.  If you only have a minute, come back to read when you have time to soak all of this in...  It's worth it.)

What is the American version of Disney?  

Commercials flood television sets with this scene: children are screaming, "I'M GOING TO DISNEYWORD!" while the giddy parents look on as if they have made all their children's dreams come true because they will be making this memory-filled trip as a family.  

Ahhh...what a dream.  It seems most Americans, whether they realize it or not, are holding lifetime passes to the Disney Dream...  (Ahem, the American Dream.)

(Disclaimer:  Yes, our family has been to Disneyworld.  As always, not trying to impose guilt here, but needing to show the dichotomy of life here and life there.  If you've been to Disneyworld or Disneyland in America, you need to come with me to see Disney represented here in Ghana...)

Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse dress the children in the American dream.  After all, Disney represents "the magical place where all your dreams come true."  Just wait 'til you see the Disney looks on the faces of these children...

Here is Winnie the Pooh...

and here is Mickey Mouse...
(Mickey is on the front of this young girls dress.)  

Most people in America, seem to live in their own version of Cinderella's castle.

Compared to the mud huts and one room shanties we see here, even a one bedroom apartment would qualify as a castle.  Extra amenities would include - running water, electricity that typically functions on a daily basis, outlets for electrical equipment, an indoor toilet, a stove instead of a coal pot used to cook outdoor over an open flame, a refrigerator, a bed, a sheet, a dish, one extra change of clothing...

God is bringing the Ghana version of the Disney dream to children here.  God's version looks drastically different.  No, there are not roller coasters, entertaining shows or gift shops full of things that people eventually throw away.  People aren't dressed up in costumes doing animated motions to captivate children.  There is not a monorail.  There is not a magical parade of floats and characters (which is so popular that you can view it on YouTube along with over 116,000 people...)  There are no Disney pins to trade.  There are not $12 refillable cups of cola to buy on a whim.

But there are lines...  However, the lines are not for the newest thrill ride.  The lines are not for an overpriced, expensive snow cone or nachos...

These children are in line for one new piece of clothing.  One.

These children stand patiently in line for the blessing of a serving of homemade jollof rice and a small piece of chicken.  Not snowcones or nachos.

These villagers stand in queue (Ghanaian term for line) waiting for medicine.  They are not standing in Fantasyland waiting for Expedition Everest, they are waiting in line for doses of lifesaving medications because they can not afford to purchase them.  The most expensive dose cost $2.oo US.

The people above can not afford to buy their Disney tickets for the day, but God provides for anyone who can not pay.  God uses His people to do it.  Feeding the Orphans provided the food and clothing handed out above.   Women in the US, hand-sewed the pillowcase dresses and shorts that were given to these children through FTO.  (Thank you Phyllis Miller and Kristy Smith!)   FTO provided all of the funds for the food, and Katie Batchelor and I helped the pastor's wife, Rebecca, prepare it.  (Our job was to chop the 10 kilos of onions!  That's 25 pounds!)

All of these children are grateful to FTO for providing their ticket to Ghana Disney for a day.

Tell me, have you seen happier faces in America's Disney?

A young boy in Knoxville, bought Ghana Disney tickets for all of the villagers standing in line for medicine.  Before we left, he gave us all of his savings to use here in Ghana.  $160 US dollars.  It was a gift of extravagant generosity like the widow's two coins in scripture.  This young boy gave all he had.  Every single penny he had was given for God's Kingdom.

When he gave his money to us, I felt the Lord would show us what to do with his money once we were here.  After visiting a village filled with parasite and worm infested children then seeing children with cow dung smeared on their heads to cure ringworm, God impresses upon us to use this young boy's money to equip our vehicle as a mobile pharmacy.  This child's money would be used to provide medicine for those who have no access to it because of their lack of funds or remote location.  This young boy would rather provide hope in the name of Jesus than save for a magical trip to Disneyworld. 

In the white and blue plaid shirt is Timothy Lumsdaine.  He is the young boy who gave his savings.  (FYI Jackson, I love you too!)  I've posted a paper Timothy wrote last year because it touched my heart so deeply.  You might enjoy reading it.  

Because of Timothy's generosity over 100 villagers were provided deworming medication, malaria medicine and/or treatments for skin infections.  Below is a picture of young boy we originally saw and he was treated the day we gave the medications!  God is so good!  The next time we see this little one, his abdomen will be less dissented and his intestines will be digesting food because the worms and parasites are now gone!

A one day ticket to Disneyworld costs $89.00.  Timothy impacted the lives of 100+ people with the HOPE of Jesus for less than the cost of two tickets to the Disney amusement park.  Did you get that?  Instead of two days in an amusement park, Timothy's willingness to give altered the lives of over 100 people here in Ghana!  Timothy, thank you for a memorable day of HOPE in Ghana.  Children's dreams of health and healing are coming true!

Friends, I don't share this to glorify Timothy.  Timothy is like every other American kid.  But he is a child who was obedient to what Jesus is called him to do.  I can learn much from his generous heart, because Timothy's gift of giving all he had represents the generous giving nature of Jesus.  

In Ghana, the age requirement for working in Ghana Disney is much younger.  For instance, we hired an eight year old to work the pharmacy for this day of dreams coming true!

There are not funny costumes here for the Characters of God's work in this country.  The children are not drawn to two big black ears or wide beaks.  Mickey and Donald don't exist.  However there are Characters that God is placing in the forefront.  In many areas of Ghana, children know the name and face of Sydney.  She represents the hope and love of Jesus to the children.  

(I don't write this to glorify Sydney either.  She hates any attention on herself anyway.  Sorry Sydney.   I share about this little sister in Christ because her obedience to Jesus has, like Timothy, impacted the lives of others.  No, it's not her, it's Jesus in her who has made the impact.)

Sydney's realization of hardships faced here and the conviction of how God would meet it has pushed many to turn from a trip to Disneyworld and come to Ghana instead.  People are giving their lives away for the children here.  The dream of children to be loved and prayed for is coming true.

What about the rides in Ghana Disney?  Well, the manmade constructions of wood and steel are nonexistent.  All rides are given on God-given ability.  The laughter and exhilaration last for long after the ride is compete.  The great thing about Ghana Disney is you can ride over and over and over and over...until the arms wear out. 

 For the little ones desiring a softer, gentler ride - we do those too!

Many folks enjoy the incredible shows at Disneyworld.  The entertainment of Ghana Disney also consists of music and dancing, but the "show" is simply people enjoying music God created.  African drumming fills the air and people are riveted by the white men and women trying to keep with the beat. 

No one in Ghana Disney will stand in line for an ice cold Coke, but they will stand in line for water.  Clean water from this new well.  People will walk for miles to stand in line for the water, then return home carrying the weight of it on their heads.

We are void of jugglers and street acrobats here, but one amazing feat in Ghana Disney was seeing the white man (the Obruni) carry water as Ghanaians do.
God has a way of turning our thinking upside down, doesn't he?  The things we pursue for happiness only leave us longing for more.  Eternal joy is found in only one place...through only one person...JESUS.

Friends, we are not trying to bring Disney to the people of Ghana.  There is no eternal significance in that.  The latest thrill ride will be replaced next year.  Pursuing the dreams of Disney leaves us yearning for something more.  We are bringing JESUS to the people of Ghana.

It's not fancy.  It's not elaborate.  But it's real and it's true.  For people seeking HOPE instead of thrills, they are finding Jesus to be the ultimate satisfaction here on earth.

Nearly every Friday night, Reid and the MLI team take the Truth of Jesus to the people of Ghana.  Outreaches in remote villages share Jesus's story in their Native Tongue.  The Jesus Film Project of MLI is dedicated to having four events per month to reach people for Christ.  

Reid and a few men from the small staff of MLI spend several hours setting up all of the equipment for the film.  The tangible spiritual opposition for the showing of the Jesus Film creates some challenges.  They pummel rods into hard, rocky soil so the screen will stand.  Barehanded, they weave copper wiring together for the electrical connections.  They replace speakers and sound systems mid-movie at numerous events.At one event, they changed a flat tire on the vehicle during the movie so they could drive home.  It is not easy.

But they do it.  Every week.  Driving home late at night on the African dirt roads.

Below Patrick, Reid, and Steve work together to figure out a way to steady the screen.

For most, this is the first movie any of the people attending have seen.  They are thrilled beyond measure to hear the true story of God's redemptive plan.

At the end of each showing, the local pastor MLI is partnered with presents the gospel.  So far, each time the film is shown, God touches hearts.  Sometimes only one chooses to say YES to Jesus.  But God only needs one.

Other times, God touches many more.  Below is a circle of people praying to surrender their lives to Christ, and then a picture of the new people joining the family of God.

  Isn't the HOPE of Jesus better than a lifetime at Disney?  A week at Disney?  A day at Disney?  A ride at Disney?  Does it even compare?

Why do we tend to pursue a place where "all our dreams come true" when Jesus offers Himself as the person who WILL make all our God-given dreams come true? 

The next time you see something to remind you of Disney, I hope you will think of the way we see Disney here in Ghana.  Remember the pictures above?  This little girl was wearing this Mickey Mouse outfit eight weeks ago when we visited this village.  She is still in the same filthy, tattered, worn out Mickey Mouse dress.  It's her only outfit.  

But today she saw Jesus.  He provided her with needed medicine.  He gave her clean water.  He tossed her into the air.  He offered her an abundant lifetime with Himself that was hers for the taking.  He showed her His love.  He showed her Himself.

The Disney of America doesn't exist here in Ghana.

But Jesus does.

The HOPE and TRUTH of Him is better than anything Disney can ever offer.

16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself,‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool!This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Luke 12:16-20

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[a] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21

As Timothy Lumsdaine would say, we are "to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet unto the way of peace."
Luke 1:79

1 comment:

Kendra said...

awwww sweet's all about perspective, isn't it? we've never been to Disney and you know my heart. helping the hopeful would be my type of disney. thank you for sharing. loving the pictures and stories.